When I Told Shiva Callers I have 8 Kids

When I Told Shiva Callers I have 8 Kids

I waste so much mental energy kicking myself for the fact that being a mother and homemaker takes up so many hours of my day, comparing myself (unfavorably!) with imaginary mothers who are so much more efficient and productive than I am. Far superior mothers and homemakers to me, and in a fraction of the time.
Recently, when my mental self-flagellation starts up in the middle of a pile of laundry or a pediatrician appointment, I’ve found it helpful for me to remember the Zoom shiva for Mom. Growing up, we were more in touch with my father’s side of the family than Mom’s, which meant that at the shiva I spoke with a bunch of Mom’s relatives for the first time. Of course, they’d all heard of me, Gladys’ daughter who’d become Orthodox, moved to Israel, married a rabbi, and had tons of kids. But during each Zoom call there was a moment when Mom’s relative would turn to me and say, “So Jenny, how many kids DO you have?”
In Jerusalem, when I tell people I have 8 kids, even secular Israelis are largely underwhelmed. But when I told Mom’s relatives that I have 8 kids, they reacted with necks perched at an angle in stunned wonder. Maybe similar to how I would react if a mother told me she has 18 kids, or runs a small orphanage.
When living in a religious neighborhood, as I do, surrounded by so many big families, like my own, it’s easy to forget that the average worldwide birth rate is actually 2.4 children, not 4 or 5 or 8 or 10. Being the mother of 2.4 kids is challenging, all the more so mothering the 2.4 children+ that most Orthodox moms are raising. It’s easy to forget that what we’re doing is unusual, exceptional. Equal parts (off the charts) wonderful and challenging. And that’s not something that can be done lickety split, it requires love, hard work, time. Lots of it.

4 comments

  1. Beautiful, thank you!

  2. I really appreciate how candidly you write about the insecurities of homemakers. I have been following your writing for a while and now that I’ve been home with my kids full-time for a period (from working full-time a few years ago) I feel like I feel less insecure thanks to it. It’s one of those situations where the results of your hard work are precious beyond measure but often hidden from the eye (a bit like most mitzvot maybe). It is lovely that you were able to show your wider family how this is a valid and good choice a woman can make.

    • I’m so happy to hear that sharing my struggles has helped you overcome your own

  3. YES! And it requires lots of thinking too.

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